Japan: Push to spread e-voting may mean allowing use of off-the-shelf tablets | The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry aims to allow the use of commercially available tablets and personal computers for electronic voting in local elections. E-voting became possible in 2002 and 10 local governments and assemblies have since implemented the voting method. But e-voting has not been used since 2016. To encourage the implementation of more electronic voting, the ministry plans to review the current guidelines that effectively limit devices to those specialized for e-voting. As mistakes in local elections have been rapidly increasing nationwide, the ministry believes that e-voting can be effective for preventing mistakes in vote counting. During fiscal 2020, the ministry aims to improve the circumstances to make it possible for local governments and assemblies to resume the implementation of e-voting. The guidelines stipulate criteria on devices used for vote counting in elections in which e-voting is implemented. It effectively only allows the use of electronic devices specialized for e-voting because of durability and measures to prevent fraudulent voting. However, compared with devices that were available in 2002, the performance of commercially available electronic devices has remarkably improved and there are now more lower-priced models.

Japan: Internal affairs ministry to test online voting for overseas citizens | The Japan Times

The internal affairs ministry will test online voting for Japanese citizens living abroad in an effort to raise voter turnout among such people in elections. The ministry will conduct the test after Sunday’s House of Councilors election with a goal of introducing it as early as the next Upper House poll in 2022, officials said. Eligible voters will be able to enter the voting page using electronic devices by verifying their identity through registered My Number identification cards. To protect privacy, voting data will be sent encrypted to Japan, and personal information attached to the data will be deleted when votes are counted. Voting data left on voter devices will also be deleted. An expert panel set up by the ministry proposed the introduction of online voting in August last year to address low voter turnout, at around 20 percent, among Japanese citizens overseas. The low rates are believed to reflect a shorter voting period due to the need to send votes to Japan as well as the need to go to diplomatic missions where polling stations are set up.

Japan: Japan already in for politically hectic 2019, but may see ‘double election’ | The Japan Times

Take a quick look at Japan’s political calendar for 2019. It’s shaping up to be one heck of a year. There will be nationwide local elections in mid-April, which will be followed by Emperor Akihito’s historic abdication at the end of the same month and the arrival of a new era. A little less than two months later, in late June, the nation will host the Group of 20 summit in Osaka for the first time ever, before political tensions soar once again later in the summer when a pivotal Upper House election is held. The nation will then brace for a consumption tax hike, slated for October, from the current eight to 10 percent. Hectic? That’s for sure. But experts say Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, determined to follow through on his longtime quest to revise the postwar Constitution, could make things even more complicated by engineering what is often dubbed a “double election” — where he strategically dissolves the Lower House to coincide with the pre-scheduled July Upper House poll.

Japan: Claims of voter manipulation cast shadow over Okinawa poll | The Asahi Shimbun

Early voting in the governor race here is surging as rumors swirl online that employers are pressuring workers to vote for certain candidates and provide photographic evidence of their choices at the ballot box. Some Internet users have posted allegations of such interference, including pictures, prompting alarmed lawyers in Okinawa Prefecture to call on the prefectural election administration committee to impose a ban on taking photographs inside polling stations. “It is a grave situation violating freedom of voting and ballot secrecy,” one of the lawyers said.

Japan: Tsukuba first in Japan to deploy online voting system | The Japan Times

A new online voting system based on the My Number identification system and blockchain technology has been introduced in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture. Tsukuba, well known as a center for scientific research, is the first in the country to start using such a voting system, according to the city. The system allows voters to cast ballots via a computer display after placing the My Number card on a card reader. Blockchain technology is used to prevent the voting data from being falsified or read.

Japan: Government panel proposes allowing Japanese expats to vote online using My Number ID cards | The Japan Times

A government panel said Friday it would be feasible to introduce an online voting system for Japanese expatriates to participate in national elections. Technical hurdles concerning voter identification could be overcome with the use of My Number ID cards, according to a report compiled by the internal affairs ministry panel. The ministry plans to conduct an online voting test in fiscal 2019 and request funds for the trial under the government’s budget for the year, which runs from April next year, ministry officials said. It hopes to revise the public offices election law in fiscal 2020 at the earliest so that the internet voting system can be introduced for Japanese people living abroad, they said.

Japan: Last municipality in Japan scraps electronic voting system | The Mainichi

The municipal government here has decided to scrap its electronic voting system, the only one of its kind in Japan, it has been learned. With the cost burden on the Rokunohe Municipal Government heavy and the spread of the system slow, the Tokyo-based electronic voting system promotion cooperative association composed of voting machine makers and sellers was unable to update the town’s machines, leading to the decision to abandon the system. The town had planned to use electronic voting during the municipal assembly elections set for next spring, but now has decided to return to paper ballots. Electronic voting was introduced in Japan in 2002 through special legislation, but was still limited only to local elections. It was hoped that the machines would improve speed and accuracy in vote counting. However, in reality, it has made little traction, and with Rokunohe’s decision, there is now not a single municipality in Japan making use of the system.

Japan: Shinzo Abe secures strong mandate in Japan’s general election | The Guardian

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has secured a strong mandate for his hard line against North Korea and room to push for revision of the country’s pacifist constitution after his party crushed untested opposition parties in Sunday’s general election. Abe’s Liberal Democratic party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner Komeito were on course to win 311 seats, keeping its two-thirds “supermajority” in the 465-member lower house, an exit poll by TBS television showed. Some other broadcasters had the ruling bloc slightly below the two-thirds mark. A supermajority would allow Abe to propose changes to the constitution, which currently restricts its military to a defensive role. Most voters, however, oppose reform. After a day that saw millions of voters brave driving rain and powerful winds brought on by Typhoon Lan, Abe’s election gamble appeared to have paid off, after he called the vote more than a year earlier than scheduled.

Japan: Abe faces new challenge as he calls snap election | The Washington Post

A surge of popularity for a freshly minted opposition party in Japan is making Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to call a snap election look riskier than initially thought. Abe dissolved the lower house of parliament Thursday, setting the stage for an Oct. 22 vote. The Party of Hope, launched earlier this week by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, may not dethrone Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party but analysts say it could put a dent in the LDP’s majority. A major setback could derail Abe’s presumed hope to extend his rule for three more years at a party leadership meeting next year. Minutes after the lower house dissolution, Abe made a fiery speech to party members. He said he is seeking a public mandate on his tough diplomatic and defense policies to deal with escalating threats from North Korea, and that party members would have to relay his message to win voter support during the campaign.

Japan: Abe mulling snap election as early as October | Reuters

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering calling a snap election as early as next month to take advantage of an uptick in approval ratings and disarray in the main opposition party, domestic media reported on Sunday. Abe’s ratings have recovered to the 50 percent level in some polls, helped by public jitters over North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests and chaos in the opposition Democratic Party, struggling with single-digit support and defections. Abe told the head of his Liberal Democratic Party’s junior coalition partner, the Komeito party, that he could not rule out dissolving parliament’s lower house for a snap poll after the legislature convenes for an extra session from Sept. 28, public broadcaster NHK reported, citing unidentified informed sources.

Japan: Redistricting law to reduce lower house seats takes effect | Japan Today

A law to revise lower house electoral districts to reduce voting weight disparities between densely and sparsely populated constituencies took effect Sunday following a monthlong period to notify the public about the changes. The revised Public Offices Election Law reduced the number of lower house members elected from Aomori, Iwate, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Mie and Nara prefectures by one each, with another four seats cut from proportional representation blocks, shrinking the lower house to a postwar low of 465 seats. The amendment brings the maximum vote weight disparity between districts down to 1.999 to 1 — just under the 2-to-1 threshold that the Supreme Court has said would undermine the Japanese Constitution’s guarantee of equality for all under the law.

Japan: Tokyo Voters’ Rebuke Signals Doubt About Shinzo Abe’s Future | The New York Times

As recently as this spring, Shinzo Abe looked as if he was on track to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, no small feat in a country where the leadership sometimes seems to be equipped with a revolving door. But a local election in Tokyo has put Mr. Abe’s longevity in doubt. Voters for the capital’s metropolitan assembly on Sunday resoundingly rejected candidates from Mr. Abe’s party, the Liberal Democrats, while electing all but one of 50 fielded by an upstart party founded by Tokyo’s popular governor, Yuriko Koike. The victory for Tomin First, the party Ms. Koike established in January, was widely seen as a referendum on Mr. Abe as much as a vote of confidence in Ms. Koike.

Japan: Voting support offered to disabled for Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election | The Mainichi

As the capital prepares for the July 2 Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, moves to provide voting support for the disabled are spreading. In addition to websites informing visually impaired people about the election, DVDs have been produced to support the intellectually disabled in the voting process. It is hoped such moves will facilitate the process for the approximately 106,000 visually and intellectually disabled people in Tokyo who are of voting age.

Japan: Diet finally enacts electoral redistricting law to correct vote weight disparities across Japan | The Japan Times

After years of stalling, the Diet enacted a law Friday to revise Lower House electoral districts to reduce voting weight disparities between densely and sparsely populated precincts that had marred the credibility of national elections. Based on population projections for 2020, the law will bring the maximum vote weight disparity between districts down to 1.999 to 1 — just under the 2-to-1 threshold that the Supreme Court has said would undermine the Constitution’s guarantee of equality for all under the law. It will do this by cutting 10 seats from the House of Representatives and redrawing district boundaries. The changes will take effect on July 16 after a monthlong period to notify the public about the changes. The amendment to the public offices election law will shrink the Lower House to a postwar low of 465 seats.

Japan: Early elections in Japan look unlikely till fall, if at all | Nikkei Asian Review

Though some in Japan’s ruling coalition hope for a snap lower house election this month while support remains high and opposition parties weak, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems more inclined to spend his ample political capital on economic policymaking. “In these four days [since New Year’s], I have not thought at all” about dissolving the lower house for early elections, Abe told reporters Wednesday after his annual visit to the Ise Grand Shrine. Many in the government and the ruling coalition think the public would not support going to the polls now, given that Abenomics’ full promise remains unfulfilled. Lower house members’ terms are set to expire in December 2018. “We must escape deflation and put the Japanese economy firmly on a new path for growth,” Abe said at the news conference.

Japan: Tokyo elects first female governor | The Guardian

Tokyo has elected its first female governor to take charge of the city amid troubled 2020 Olympic Games preparations after a foul-mouthed campaign of misogyny and mudslinging. Yuriko Koike claimed victory after exit polls and early vote counts pointed to a strong lead for the former defence and environment minister. “I will lead Tokyo politics in an unprecedented manner, a Tokyo you have never seen,” she said in a voice slightly hoarse after two weeks of campaigning. The election, which was contested by a record field of 21 candidates in a city home to 13.6 million people, was called after the previous governor, Yoichi Masuzoe, resigned over a financial scandal involving the use of public funds to pay for lavish hotels and spa trips.

Japan: Tokyo turmoil: race to rule world’s largest city mired in sex scandal and misogyny | The Guardian

It is a race to take charge of the world’s largest city – a metropolis with a population more than half the size of the United Kingdom and with a GDP greater than all but 10 countries. But the election for the post of governor of Tokyo has piqued interest not only because of the size of the task which falls to its victor, but also for the mud slinging and misogyny which has characterised the fight between the candidates. Voters in Tokyo will go to the polls on Sunday amid a campaign marred by events that some say highlights the worst of Japan’s male-dominated politics. The winner will take over after the two previous incumbents resigned in disgrace, and is tasked with overseeing the 2020 Olympics, coming up with ways to offset problems caused by the capital’s rapidly ageing population, and providing better child care services. It is a weighty job serving approximately 37 million people in the Tokyo metro area and a record 21 candidates are running.

Japan: Court rules law denying inmates right to vote constitutional | The Japan Times

A Japanese court has found an election law provision denying prisoners the right to vote in a national poll is constitutional, in the latest ruling in a series of lawsuits filed over the controversial issue. The Hiroshima District Court on Wednesday rejected a claim by a prison inmate in his 50s who sought the right to vote on the grounds the election law contravenes the Constitution, which guarantees the “inalienable right” to choose public officials. “We cannot say it is against the Constitution,” presiding Judge Masayuki Suenaga said in the ruling, adding there is a “certain degree of reasonableness” in the restrictions set by Article 11 of the Public Offices Election Law, which says imprisoned individuals cannot vote.

Japan: Vote opens door to constitution change | Associated Press

A resounding election victory for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling bloc has opened the door a crack for his long-cherished ambition to revise the constitution for the first time since it was enacted in 1947 — a behind-the-scenes agenda that could over time change Japan’s future. Gains in parliamentary elections Sunday mean that Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, with the help of coalition partner Komeito and fringe groups supporting constitutional change, now can cobble together the crucial two-thirds majority in the 242-member upper house needed to propose revision and put it to a referendum. The LDP and Komeito already have a two-thirds majority in the lower house. Holding a so-called “supermajority” in both houses is rare, and the LDP’s long-term goal of constitutional revision has never seemed so realistic.

Japan: Connecting with Japan’s teen voters looms as hurdle amid low turnout | Nikkei Asian Review

Sunday marked the first Japanese national election in which the minimum voting age was lowered to 18 from 20. But the lackluster participation of the teens highlights the challenges political parties face in reaching out to youth. The turnout ratio for teenagers in the upper house election was 45.4%, compared with 54.7% for all age groups, according to the internal affairs ministry. A closer look at the teen voters shows that 18-year-olds had a much higher participation rate of 51.17% compared with the 39.66% for 19-year-olds. The former are often still in high school and thus have more opportunities to learn about voting rights in school, while the latter are often in college or working. The rate for 18-year-olds was higher than expected, said Kazunori Kawamura, associate professor at Tohoku University, while stressing a need for a mechanism to help keep them involved.

Japan: Ruling coalition on course to win parliamentary election | The Guardian

Japan’s ruling coalition secured a resounding victory in upper house elections on Sunday, with some exit polls predicting that prime minister Shinzo Abe’s party and its allies would achieve the legislative firepower they need to rewrite the country’s pacifist constitution. According to the exit polls, Abe’s Liberal Democratic party (LDP) was on course to win 57 to 59 seats of the 121 seats that were contested. Its junior coalition partner, the Buddhist-backed Komeito, was expected to win 14 seats. Combined with other minor conservative parties, the coalition was within reach of the number of seats it needs in the upper house to set in motion plans to change the US-authored constitution for the first time since it was introduced in 1947.

Japan: Teenagers in Japan Can Finally Vote. But Will They? | The New York Times

Mena Hakamada, an 18-year-old college freshman, knows how important it is to vote. “To reflect our opinions, the only way is to vote,” said Ms. Hakamada, a physical education major at the University of Tsukuba. But Ms. Hakamada will not cast a ballot on Sunday, in the first national election in which Japanese 18- and 19-year-olds are allowed to vote. “I am busy tomorrow,” she said with a shake of her head. Ms. Hakamada is going on a field trip to the ocean, and she never got around to voting by absentee ballot in her hometown, Shizuoka, near Mount Fuji. When Japan goes to the polls to elect members to its upper house of Parliament on Sunday, the nation’s newly enfranchised teenagers are expected to make a lackluster showing.

Japan: Japan lowers voting age, but are young ready to vote? | Associated Press

A 19-year-old Japanese college student joined others casting a historic first ballot at a polling station earlier this week. Then he wondered if he had spent enough time looking into the candidates. Kouki Nozomuto, who used an early voting system in Yokohama for those who are busy on election day, is among 2.4 million newly eligible voters for Sunday’s race for the upper house of parliament, the first national election since Japan lowered the voting age last year from 20 to 18. “I thought I’ll just go in between classes, so I think maybe I should have spent more time (to prepare),” he said afterward, saying he came because he thinks it’s a citizen’s duty to vote and he wants his voice to be heard. “On reflection, that’s what I think I should have done better.”

Japan: Constitutional reform likely after Japan election | The Straits Times

Despite the death of seven Japanese aid workers in the Dhaka siege last Friday, opposition parties are putting pressure on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the run-up to this Sunday’s Upper House election not to rewrite security laws that will give the country more powers to protect itself and its citizens. They have vowed to block any attempts by Mr Abe to revise the Constitution to allow Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defence and go to the aid of any ally under attack. Mr Abe had alluded to the possible change at a rally after the Bangladesh attack, when he stressed he will take “all possible means” to ensure the safety of Japanese citizens around the world. “We’d like to join forces with the international community to root out terrorist acts. We will firmly secure the safety of Japanese nationals both at home and abroad,” he said last Sunday.

Japan: To Inspire Young Voters, Japan Tries Comics, Teen Models and a Talking Grain of Rice | Wall Street Journal

To persuade 18- and 19-year-olds to head to the polls for the first time this weekend, officials in Japan have launched marketing campaigns starring a series of ambassadors they believe will play to the budding democratic instincts of the country’s youth. They include a male model and his platinum-haired sweetheart, a lovelorn comic-book character and a talking grain of rice. The opposition Democratic Party hopes to increase turnout by inviting actual young people—in fact, teen models—to talk sessions with lawmakers where they chat about the latest cellphone apps and gossip about romance between members of parliament. At a recent event, participants suggested free ice cream and more shelters for abandoned pets as policies they wanted the government to adopt. “These models have a lot of big fans, and these events might be an opportunity to make those fans think that politics is actually a part of their lives and that they should vote,” said Democratic Party lawmaker Akihiro Hatsushika. Japan, which has the oldest population of any country on Earth, has good reason to want to get its young people engaged in politics. While most elderly Japanese vote, only about a third of people in their 20s voted in a lower house election in late 2014, when overall turnout hit an almost record low. The law to lower the voting age was passed last year. Nearly two-thirds of 18- and 19-year-olds say they aren’t affiliated with either of the two biggest political parties, according to a survey conducted in June by Asahi Shimbun.

Japan: Politics a man’s world in Japan as few females stand in 2016 Upper House election | The Japan Times

A key issue female Japanese voters focus on in election season is whether the men who dominate politics are serious about welcoming more women to their ranks. More female lawmakers are needed to speak for Japanese women at a time when the nation faces challenges such as an acute shortage of places at children’s day care facilities. Out of 389 candidates in Sunday’s Upper House election, 96 are women, down nine from the Upper House election three years ago. The ratio of female candidates to males is up by 0.5 percentage point to 24.7 percent because the overall number of people running has fallen from 433 to 389.

Japan: Political parties target internet generation with innovative campaign videos | Japan Today

As Japan’s newly enfranchised teen voters make up their minds ahead of the July 10 House of Councillors election, the country’s political parties are taking their online campaign videos beyond the mundane to appeal to the youth vote. Since internet campaigning was legalized in 2013, parties’ online election campaign videos have tended to be limited to footage of leaders’ public speeches or press conferences. But with approximately 2.4 million new voters aged 18 and 19 joining the electorate in time for the upper house race after the voting age was lowered from 20, the parties are exploring new territory as they vie to become a familiar presence on young people’s smartphones.

Japan: Will size matter in Japan’s upper house election? | East Asia Forum

The 2016 triennial House of Councillors or upper house election is set to test Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policy and popularity. Although the House of Councillors is less powerful than the House of Representatives, past prime ministers have been forced to resign after poor electoral results in the upper house. Prime Minister Abe does not face that prospect. His party is likely to suffer losses, though not big enough to lose majority. Japan’s upper house consists of 242 members of which half is up for elections every three years. There are two types of electoral systems and each voter casts two ballots: one to choose 48 members from a national party-list and the other to choose the rest of 73 members from prefectural districts consisting of between one and six seats, depending on the size of the population. For example, Tokyo has 6 seats while there are 32 single-member districts, after readjustments made for this year’s elections.

Japan: Upper house election may put Constitution reform in reach | Japan Today

The July 10 House of Councillors election could put at least two-thirds of the upper house in the hands of lawmakers amenable to amending the Japanese Constitution, opening the door to a national referendum on the issue, according to a Kyodo News survey. The ruling bloc of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito are likely to win at least 70 of the 121 seats up for grabs in the election, comfortably exceeding Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s stated target of 61, a majority of the contested seats. The nationwide telephone poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday—in which a total of 34,240 households nationwide were surveyed and 27,597 eligible voters responded—suggests that with the addition of Initiatives from Osaka and independents thought likely to support reform, Abe could amass sufficient support for his long-standing goal of amending the war-renouncing Constitution.

Japan: First teens cast ballots as early voting starts for Upper House election | The Japan Times

Teenage voters cast ballots as early voting began Thursday across Japan for the first national election since the minimum voting age was lowered to 18 from 20. Chiho Tatsumi, an 18-year-old high school student, is believed to be the first teenage voter to cast a ballot for the July 10 House of Councilors election. Tatsumi, who voted shortly after 6:30 a.m. at an early voting station in Mino, Osaka Prefecture, before going to school, told reporters, “If I got the right to vote but did not go to vote, that would not make sense,” adding she hoped her friends also participate in the voting.